Albany, NY – New York officials are considering a plan launched by Buffalo Bills to allow 6,700 fans in the team’s next playoff home game, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today.
Fans will be tested for Covid-19 before the game and masks will be required. Anyone not wearing a mask will be removed from the stadium.
Contacts will be tracked after the game to determine if and how the game spread the coronavirus, Cuomo said.
Fans would be spaced once inside the stadium and some sections would be closed. Ushers would be present in every section.
Bills Stadium normally has a capacity of over 71,000.
The plan for the playoff game is not yet final and state officials are still in talks with Bills.
“It’s never been done before and how to do it, the devil is often in the details,” Cuomo told a news conference in Albany. “We’d like to do it.”
Bills won the team’s first AFC East division title in 25 years over the weekend. The team is 11-3 and has been one of the top teams in the NFL all season.
The team’s record is good enough to guarantee a home playoff game at Bills Stadium. It will be Bills’ first home playoff game since 1997.
If the bills win the last two games, no AFC team can exceed them for no. 2 seeds in the playoffs, which would guarantee two home playoff games.
Cuomo has been talking about the possibility of fans at the Bills games for months. But just as talks began to escalate, Covid cases grew in western New York and the rest of the state soon.
The playoff plan could serve as a model for how the state can restart other big events, Cuomo said. The combination of tests and vaccinations may allow the re-launch of certain events and the reopening of places that are now closed.
The stadium itself is a relatively controlled environment and the team can manage how fans come and go, said state budget director Robert Mujica, who worked on the bill with state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.
The biggest concern is events that could occur around the game, such as tailgate parties, Zucker said. How to control them is the most important question left.
The NFL playoffs begin Jan. 9. The date for the Bills game is not yet set.
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